Photo Op Optimization: Using Pictures in Political Social Media

By Chris Forbes

Few things are better for communication than good pictures. On the other hand, even a bad photo can do some good on social media. Your social network needs a constant variety of fresh content. Tweets, status updates, posts, links, check-ins, and shared videos are always great, but you also need to post still pictures regularly.

BTW…if a picture were really worth a thousand words, wouldn’t you still need a humongous wallet to hold pics of the Obamacare bill? Anyway…

There’s no need to hire a professional photographer for your social media picture posts. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. Shots that look “too professional” won’t have the same authentic feel as would your amateur shots. You don’t even need a regular camera, just use your smart phone. Pictures on social networks are expected to be from the personal point of view of the candidate. There’s no need for taking pictures of your sushi at lunch, just provide a regular flow of pictures of what’s happening in your work.

Facebook and Twitter easily share photographs. On your phone, open the application you want to use (Facebook or Twitter) and below the space where you usually write a tweet or status update, you will see a camera icon. Tap on the icon, and the App will open up to the pictures stored on your phone. Pick the picture you want to post, write a caption in the text space, send, and you are done. It couldn’t be any easer!

Kodak Moments

Political life is full of little moments you can share on social media. If you have an eye for these moments, you can take a picture with your phone and post it online. Here are a few times when you might consider taking a picture…

  • When you are at an event
  • While making a speech
  • On the campaign trail
  • When meeting a celebrity
  • Candid shots of work taking place
  • Pictures with constituents or volunteers
  • Interesting items or places
  • Behind the scenes
  • Illustrate a point with a picture
  • Occasional shots with your family
  • More…

Four rules for better social media pics

  1. Get Closer. Most pictures are taken from too far away. This makes the subjects in a picture too small for viewers to appreciate. Before you take a picture, get closer to your subject. After that, take two more steps closer. Now you’re ready to take a picture!
  2. Compose your shots. Smart phones come with the option to display a grid to help you line up your shot. (Look under “options” on your phone’s camera for this setting.) The grid on your phone is based on the “Rule of Thirds.” It’s all photographer alchemy. In short, just place the most important part of your picture, your center of interest, at one of the four places where the lines cross. A person who is the center of interest should look or appear to be moving toward the center of the picture. Why? There is no “why,” only “do.”
  3. Take a lot of photos. Go forth and multiply your shots. Pictures are cheap and easy to take, so don’t be stingy with the clicks! This gives you many pictures to choose from and increases the likelihood that one of them will be good.The difference between a good photographer and a bad one? A good photographer only shows you the good pictures he or she takes.
  4. Think before you post. Pick only the best ones to post. Don’t post a picture you wouldn’t want to see on the evening news. You are recording history in the making. Think about the implications of your photographs before you post them.

Ten Ways to Take Eye-catching Photos to Post on Your Social Networks

  1. Recruit some help. You don’t have to hire a professional, but you can hand your phone to a trusted friend, volunteer, or staff member to help you take a few pictures. Or, ask them to use their phone and send you a few pics.
  2. Get in the shot. At least 70% of these pictures should include you. People relate to you personally, they need to see you in action.
  3. Post a variety of pictures to your social networks regularly. People are down on what they are not up to date on. They want to see what it’s like behind the scenes. Keep them in the know with pictures in your posts.
  4. File size matters. Pictures with a file size that’s too low or cropped from a larger picture will produce a picture that is pixelated. Ewww!
  5. Learn to edit. Get a photo editor for your phone (like Camera+) to edit and crop your shots. Use filters and effects sparingly. They are not as cool as you might think.
  6. Think about the audience when you take pictures. What is the message you want them to receive? Tell a story. The best pictures are those that tell a single story.
  7. Focus is 90% of good photography. Unless you happened to get a shot of a UFO, the Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot, pictures should always be in focus.
  8. Zoom is usually a bad idea on a smart phone. It’s hard for your smart phone to focus at great distance. When possible, take a few steps closer to get a better shot.
  9. Pay attention to lighting. In a battle between the sun and your camera, the sun always wins. Don’t shoot if the sun is glaring in your lens, or in the eyes of the people in your picture. Indoors you probably don’t need a flash as much as you think, but if you use it, be aware of reflective surfaces, shadows and “red eye.”
  10. Save your photos: Back up your pics because they can also be used on your website, in email newsletters, and, depending on the quality, in print pieces.

Chris Forbes ( is a frustrated ex-comic, Indie Film Marketer, & Co-author of “Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits.” As an Oklahoma-based social media